Disease in Malawi
Malawi is a sub-tropical country in sub-Saharan Africa, thus there are many endemic diseases all travelers to Malawi should be aware of. Malaria and schistosomiasis (Belharzia) are the most common and yet easily preventable parasites in Malawi.
The malaria risk is predominantly due to P. falciparum and exists throughout the year in the whole country. There are reports of P. falciparum strains resistant to chloroquine and sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine, therefore the recommended prophylaxis is oral mefloquine taken once a week. You should also sleep under a mosquito net and wear insect repellent from dusk till dawn.
Schistosomiasis is contracted through the skin while swimming in infected water. Areas with reed beds, stagnant water, and/or high human use are the most likely places to catch schistosomiasis. Schisto (as it is often called) can be treated, but prevention is well worth it: the disease can last for up to 20 years, and few Americans can learn to be okay with the idea of worms mating in our bodies.
HIV infects about 15 % of the population, higher in the cities. Sexual abstinence is the best prevention. There is no risk of contracting HIV through eating food or shaking hands with infected persons as long as there is no transfer of bodily fluids.
Other diseases to be aware of include:
(transmitted by food and water) hepatitis A, typhoid fever and cholera,
(transmitted by insects) malaria, yellow fever, dengue and tick-borne encephalitis,
(transmitted by animals) rabies, brucellosis, leptospirosis and certain viral hemorrhagic fevers,
(transmitted by sexual contact) hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS and syphilis,
(airborne) influenza, meningococcal disease, and tuberculosis.
Required Vaccinations and Healthcare In-Country
A basic recommended vaccination list includes Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid fever, yellow fever, rabies, TB, MMR, Tetanus/diphtheria, ipv, and meningitis. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers coming from infected areas.
There are ex-patriot services in the major cities. It is a good idea to locate them when you arrive so that you are prepared incase you need them later. The U.S. Embassy has a list of healthcare providers on its website: http://usembassy.state.gov/malawi/wwwh-am-med.html
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure “Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad,” available through the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's internet site at http://www.cdc.gov. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s website at http://www.who.int/ith. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/iht.
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